reassault

July 25, 2017

three months ago i was with a male friend at the pharmacy picking up some meds. i was standing at the counter. he was standing right next to me, shoulder-to-head (i’m a bit shorter). when the pharm tech says, “Sarah” to confirm that the last name matched with the name written on the order, i nodded in my typical i have neither the time nor the energy to engage in the importance of names. my friend’s reaction to the tech completely disregarding my name was to discreetly and very matter-of-fact grab and pinch my ass…i knew that this awkward response was his way of telling me that he wanted me to speak up. but in that instant, i felt anger. it had nothing to do with my name. something sat in my throat. and i couldn’t give it voice.

as we walked through the pharmacy towards the exit, a mixture of emotions resurfaced throughout my body. i didn’t say a word. and he was in his own world. he had no idea what was happening to me. when we got to the car he continued talking about quien-carajo-sabe. i took a deep breath and said, “if you ever grab my ass again, imma’ beat the shit outta’ you.” he laughed lightly and kept talking. completely oblivious to both my body language and my verbal language. i stopped him and said, “no. you really need to listen to me. i mean it. if you ever grab my ass again, imma’ beat the shit outta’ you, Zack” (not his real name).

it landed. i could tell he both listened and saw me. clearly.

in typical victim/survivor behavior i started to explain myself, “it’s not that i think you did it with malice but…” he interrupted me immediately. he was visibly upset with himself and stated that i did not owe him any explanation. instead he apologized for being an “insensitive and privileged-asshole.” he owned his shit. all of it. with every word that came out of his mouth he affirmed what many men ignore and dismiss.

he went on saying that regardless of the fact that he was aware of my sexual abuse history, even if he didn’t know the information he does, his action was completely out of line. i have never given him permission to touch me. i didn’t need to say anything. he was working it out in that very moment. promised to do better every day. he came from his Heart. and a bit of my trust was restored.

last week i went to visit some friends. i have to preface that one of the friends, Carlos (not his real name either) was drunk. upon our arrival the energy was happy. we caught up on how work was going for everyone, how our babies were doing, and the usual talk-time spent with friends to reconnect. we went to spend some time and enjoy a distraction from the intensity that is our current life.

we were discussing breast feeding with another friend who was there. she was sharing her experience with us about breastfeeding her children. when a bursts from Carlos screaming, “teta!” with a ridiculous degree of volume, interrupted our conversation. he decided that he wants to focus his attention on women’s breasts. it was beyond the annoying drunk. and we tried to ignore Carlos until he decided it was ok to touch my partner’s breasts. she immediately responded by saying that if it happened again he would get kicked in the balls.

the energy has shifted significantly. and quickly.

i looked at my wife and said, “let’s go.” our other friend stood up quickly, told him to shut up and invited us to come in to the kitchen to see what he is cooking. we spent some time in there speaking about something he wanted to share regarding his health and we all went back out to the yard. as we stood outside, Carlos comes from behind and grabs my breasts. i turned around, with all the anger and fear that i experience every. fucking. time. someone touches me without consent running through my skin. and said, “every time you do that, you trigger me. you trigger every sexual assault i have experienced. from being molested to being raped. you bring it all to the surface.”

he paused, perplexed in a noticeably sober moment, and says something to the effect of how he can’t understand how he, a person of “confianza” would trigger that in me. i stopped him real fast, “this is not about you. this is not about you. this is NOT about you.” i repeated it multiple times.

i could tell his head was spinning as he tried to process this out loud. he stated how he also grabs so-and-so’s breasts and so-and-so, as if that shit has anything to do with me. i could only listen for so long before thinking this will not be a conversation that i could engage in real talk given his etoh intake… he paused and realized it wasn’t about him but i could tell that something had not quite connected. and a bit of my trust was lost.

i’ve been sitting with all of this. and a day hasn’t passed that i don’t think about it since it happened. my body is holding all of this shit. when these things resurface i just want to beat the shit outta’ the person who triggered and everyone before him. and there are days that i hate that my initial reaction is always to talk and not just go fucking violent. it’s like my need to keep things “peaceful” gets in the way of a more complete expression of my feelings. like fucking him up.

but my body, it just holds on tight. pero algun día voa’ reventar. i have no idea what that looks like. and that is very frightening to me. for now, i hold. and continue to digest what i should immediately vomit.

in what world can anyone think that just because it’s person of “confianza,” it’s ok to touch another body? every male who violated my body was always a person of “confianza.” the majority of the perpetrators are. this world chooses to ignore that fact repeatedly. they don’t respect female bodies. they don’t care to respect female bodies.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
your daughter.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
tu madre.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
your sister.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day. in the language used to speak to them or about them. we experience assault in the wandering eyes of someone who looks to undress. we experience assault in the “casual” grabbing of our body parts. we are assaulted with every cat call that makes us lengthen our steps and increase our pace.

i have two baby boys to raise now…they will know their Mamá’s story one day.  They will write a new narrative where informed consent is always a given and bodies are respected.

#52essays2017

whatever you’d like

May 25, 2017

we always thought we were gonna’ have a girl. La Nena. we had picked her name out much quicker than the boys’. so when we learned that we were having two boys something shifted. there was a sadness. i can’t deny that. not that i wasn’t happy to have whatever we were getting, just that i wanted a girl because well, i’m a girl. and i wanted to raise a strong girl. independent. luchadora. bad ass. rockstar. queen. bruja. that was gonna’ be our girl, Luna was her name…

“it’s two boys,” said the radiologist as she pointed to it’s genitals and typed the word “boy” with an arrow pointing directly at its penis. that was when i had “that” moment. the one where shit gets real real. we have to raise two boys… two boys. who have two moms. who happen to be Latinxs. who happen to be queer. in a world that seems to be tearing at the seams. in a world that just on your genitals alone have placed an exaggerated, ridiculous amount of expectations on you that are unrealistic and just dumb. fucking stoopid’.

i’ve been guilty of some of those expectations. it’s the environment i grew up in. that “boys will be boys” bullshit. i’m working on changing that every day. so i am already thinking about a few things. if you are indeed cisgendered males, know that i have no clue whatsoever about your body parts except what i know from my education as a nurse and the few, often negative encounters with male bodies i may have had. but i trust that you are here to teach me a thing or two. i also believe you’re here to heal me around some of those not-so-pleasant experiences.

it’s not at all about your body but, because of your body society will make you think you have to “act a certain way.” please pay no attention to the distractors from Self Love. your body is simply your vessel. the temple in which your soul resides in this time and space.

discover the many parts of you. pink is for everyone. you can play with dolls. you can dance. you can cry. you can have long hair. you can paint your nails. you can wear whatever you’d like (though trust that i will check you before you walk out the door and make adjustments if needed. porque utede’ no pueden ta’ andando’ por ahi como loco tampoco). you don’t have to be strong. you don’t have to know about cars or sports. you can throw out the trash AND you can do the dishes.

you have brown skin. your names will be mispronounced. this has so many implications, most of them terrifying, so please be mindful of all of your actions because even your inactions are bound to set something in motion. usually, that motion is against you. stand firm in who you are. especially in moments of injustice.

you have two moms. so you also got that. which we think is pretty cool. and someone may have a thing to say about that. pero tu los mandas pal’ carajo and keep it moving. do not waste your time arguing with mojones que no cojen cabeza. i do promise you that you will have very positive male role models around you. and you will know that it takes a village and Our Village is beautiful and big and strong and they Love you.

we have so much to learn from each other. and i will do my best to be my best self for you both. and i promise you that i will honor and respect whatever you discover about yourself along the way,  i will encourage and provide all the support i can. and my only expectation of you is that you be your genuine Selves, wherever you may stand. there will be no boxes to put you in. you are perfectly made.

still, imma’ raise two bad asses. two brujos. two conjurers of justice. two respectful humans. two luchadores.

you are the painters of your canvass. i will be your easel.

#52weeks2017

dye the narrative

January 4, 2017

this past fall i participated in a writing course. i did it as a way to “return to my writing.” my writing and i had a break up. and i had been in this “writer’s block” for some time that turned into days and later months. then years. it felt like an eternity since i had been able to put something together that i was proud of; something that i could read and feel good about.

created and facilitated by Vanessa Mártir, i signed up for the course: Writing Our Lives. The semester finished in early December. on the last day of class we workshopped each other’s work. we were proud of what each person had put out. and at the end, we hugged, and went our separate ways. we’ve been keeping in touch with each other. the internet makes it easy.

last week, Vanessa posted on FB that she wanted to challenge others to take on something she had done in the closing year: write one essay per week in the year 2016. she did it. literally, she wrote an essay. per week. for one year. when i read her post asking folks to consider challenging themselves,d my initial thought was like, “eta’ tipa ‘ta loca o le patina el caco’?”

but i thought about it -i literally slept on it. and i asked myself that damn question that we hate when others ask, “are you a writer?” “what qualifies you to claim the title?” “have you published anything?” the more i repeatedly asked myself these questions, the more frightened i became. often, we let others determine who and what we are. when they ask these questions, we feel inadequate because we may not meet other people’s definition of a writer.

well f*ck that. i’m a writer because i say so. my story has been published in every single step i have taken towards my truth.

i decided that i’m taking on the challenge. why? cause i’m crazy. and by crazy i mean that i know how difficult it is to write just one essay. i here i just committed to write one per week. but you know what? this SERVES me. it FEEDS me. it allows me to connect with my communities.

i write because for too long our collective stories have been silenced, omitted, and erased. our stories are too powerful and too poignant. they are needed so that we may dye the “dominant narrative.”

for too long our communities have been silenced. we have been slaughtered and the stories written said we were the ones wielding the knives. we’ve been maimed and the newspaper headlines read that it was our hot blooded temperament that created the war. even our screams have been attributed to hysteria. to some sort of “glitch in our system.”

John Leguizamo wrote an article about the detrimental effects of the “exclusion” of our communities and the “message it sends to every Latino child.” He writes about the importance of making our lives visible.

my writing is visibility and accountability. i am here to tell my story and empower others to tell theirs, so the OUR narrative reflects us in our truth. for too long they have colonized our tongues and twisted our story to create fear and hatred. the inaccuracies have portrayed us in such negative ways that we started to believe what the stories wrote about us. even our grandmothers, whose souls were untouchable, yielded to the narrative and died believing we were somehow broken.

i am here to write my story. because the power it holds is immense. i will take on this challenge because los muchachos necesitan saber nuestra verdad. they need to know that we are legendary. they need to know that we were, are, and will always be here.

our stories, the account of our events, our experiences are unique. they stand out because we stand up. i refuse to allow others to tell my story or my people’s story.  so i’m here. with pen in hand, blank pages in my notebook and a lifetime of stories to share because i am invincible not invisible.

i accept the challenge as a creative battle. with the ultimate prize of reclaiming our stories so that our children can know of the pen warriors that came to tell our truth.

#52essays2017

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image from pbs.twing

bells curve

November 4, 2013

the system has expectations for our children:
they hold our kids hostage to numbers called statistics.
so when the bell curve tolls in our hood
it announces the death of another brilliant mind
whose brain has been washed in toxic detergents
of a public education system
whose lesson is you: can’t do this.

“add them to the numbers,” they say.

numbers we wear on an orange suit across our chest
numbers we carry on a government issued card
numbers… to cluster us all into a bundle of expected failure.

that’s some ‘ish right there.

believe me when i tell you
we can survive the system that fails us.
the very same system that tries to derail us.
they blame us for the fault they’ve committed
against our children.
but we can survive the system’s shade
with our Light.

everyone knows there are more cops at our schools
than resources. everyone knows when government budgets
get cut our schools bleed out.

here is a fact: statistics are not a death sentence.

if we can rise above the stat… we can shift the curve
to turn the streets of our neighborhoods
cut through the park
stop in the corner bodega
head to the church
to preach the miracle
that we are.

we are born survivors.

i know that our grades are affected by more than just what happens at school.
i know that trying to help your mother by doing a little hustling is your truth.
i know that you go to your room when you hear the screams of violence in our neighborhood.
i know some days you wonder if food will be on the dinner table.

the reality of our realities are not for the weak. and that is all the proof we need to be certain of what we can accomplish.

we are known to survive in the most adverse circumstances.

i expect you to thrive Hermanit@. i believe you can thrive.

i want you to look at the stat and say, “i’m an outlier.”

“i am that number that will not be included. i will exhaust every possible resource because i know how to hustle a scholarship. i got skills so sick no antibiotic can get rid of it. i am my community’s miracle child. my swag is success!”

you are being called by our community
to stand for our community
and lift our community out, up and over.

you are needed. you are wanted to create change from within. you are the answer to the question.

to the system we are a number with an attached expectation.

what are you to your Self? what is your expectation of you?

commit to the miracle that you are.

bells will curve. we will be sound.

Deprived+Areas+Inner+City+Glasgow+Bx2gcA3_atbl

hello, my name is…

January 16, 2013

names have power.

i was named, Sarahí. (try it in your best Spanish. the “h” is silent and the “í” sounds like “ee”).
my mother’s older sisters named me. her name was Sara (again, read that in Spanish).
she thought Sara was too plain.

recently, i went to an open house (i am in the process of applying to nursing school) and the young man who gave the opening presentation introduced himself as Jose Villa (read, Ho-say Vi-la). my heart ached. i cringe when we do this (i was guilty of it years ago). hell, i didn’t even try to say my name in “English,” i simply changed it to Sarah.

lots of us are guilty of this. some of us do it ’cause we just don’t want to deal. others because, “whatever.” pero i stopped doing this about eleven years ago.

what changed?

i realized a few things,

1. i had to learn an entire language, the other person just needs to learn how to pronounce a name.
2. i was dishonoring my name by butchering it both written and verbal. i slaughtered the texture of it, to please foreign tongues.
3. my name is BEAUTIFUL.

we spend so much time trying to assimilate, to fit in; while honoring the traditions of our culture. we sacrifice parts of our culture that can bleed out for a lifetime. but i couldn’t do that anymore. i grew up in the states. but i wasn’t born here. neither were my parents. neither was my name. and i have to work at holding on to these cultural parts of me because this place tries so hard to change the parts of you that are most powerful.

so we get here and they drop our mother’s last name. reserved for security questions at banks. then they call you something else. they ask the question, “what does your name translate to?”

if your name is Juan, now you are John.

NO!

you cannot translate a name. by definition names have no translation.
when you were named, you were given power.
you are to carry that name and make it yours while honoring your last names.

and when you migrate to this country they want to change it -pa’ que se le haga mas facíl en su boca.

i invite you to start saying your name, the way your abuela would say it if she were calling you back in the house. or the way your parent says it when you’re in trouble (you know, when you get that first and middle name). give people your name the way it is supposed to be pronounced.

i told my nephew this just a few weeks ago.
tell them there is no translation for Se-bas-tián.
it’s not sa-bash-chin. it’s not even close.

my name is Sarahí. anything less is disrespectful.

i speak in spanglish tongues.
it is the sound of two cultures
that burst in my mouf’
like pop rocks.

mouf’…

like, take a baf’.
like, do your maf’ homework.
’cause the “th” sound
was too soft for the strength
in abuela’s tongue.

guen’ you are raised here
(en los estados unidos),
your tongue splits
and you find yourself
between “correct english”
and the sound of your cultura.

“mamita, que no se te olvide tu idioma,”
your Titi reminds you.

pero the english teacher tells you
to slide the tongue below your top teeth
so that ju’ can enunciate correctly .

enunciate?
sounds harsh.

so we created spanglish.
a place where they bof’ dance
comfortably. without judgement.
or correction.

sounds like,
caserio and projects.
barrio and town.
ciudad and suburbs.

it is the last romance language!

you can speak it. whisper it. shout it.
you can woe someone to Love in it.
you can awaken the social justice conscious
of sleeping giant with it.
you can put it in the lyrics of a song
and watch music play a cuatro
while an electric guitar falls
en clave.

ta. ta. ta. tata.
ta. ta. ta. tata.

la boila’ is broken
we have no heat.

code switch.

parkea’ el carro
then meet me
en el rufo’,
a few of us are gonna’
janguear’ and have a few drinks.

spoken word poets
have brought spanglish
to open mics
closing lyrical lines
with coños and “y tu abuela aonde’ ‘ta?”

abuela, i could never olvidar mi lengua
she dances in my mouf’
like celia cruz on stage
with a tumbao’
“my english ees’ no’ bery gu’ lukin’!”

pero i grew up here. in the land
of gringos. ’cause you wanted something
mejor for mamí.

so i had to learn this idioma
to fit in and assimilate,
while you continued to make rinconcitos
of Puerto Rico on tenement fire escapes.
palm and avocado trees fought with
taller buildings for a little bit of that sol.
a small clothesline had tio’s pantaloncillos
dancing salsa in the wind.
and a flag that waved hello
to transplanted seedlings
that played a combo of
la rueda mas hermosa
and red-light-green-light.

we stop. we go.
in and out.

we wrote a new idioma.
something the oxford dictionary
couldn’t add to their collection
of borrowed tongues.

something that was ours.
it honored our history
and accepted our new reality.

our tongue
debated and deliberated
a new sound.

spanglish:
a funny-often-times-hysterical-combination
-of-english-and-any-given-variation-of-spanish-
that-sounds-like-Home-and-home-and-Love-and-love.